The French Album (CD review)

Music of Faure, Debussy, Rameau, Chabrier, and Ravel. Jorge Federico Osorio, piano. Cedille CDR 90000 197.

By John J. Puccio

Jorge Federico Osorio may not be the most-familiar name among concert pianists, but he is assuredly among the best. The Mexican-born Osorio (b. 1951) has always avoided the flash and flamboyance of so many of his colleagues in exchange for graceful, refined playing, and it seems to have paid off. He has produced dozens of first-rate record albums of solo, sonata, and concerto music for EMI, Naxos, ASV, Artek, IMP, Linn, CBS, and others, his most-recent recordings on the Cedille label.

This addition of “The French Album” to his discography is a perfect example of his technique. It includes music by Faure, Debussy, Rameau, Chabrier, and Ravel, all of it done up in as gentle yet as passionate a style as one could want. Here’s a rundown of the disc’s contents:

Gabriel Faure (1845–1924)
  1. Pavane
Claude Debussy (1862–1918)
  2. Les collines d’Anacapri
  3. La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune
  4. Clair de lune
  5. Ce qu’a vu le vent d’Ouest
  6. Voiles
  7. La Cathedrale engloutie
  8. Feux d’artifice
  9. Feuilles mortes
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764)
10. Les Tricotets
11. Menuets I & 2
12. L’Egyptienne
Emmanuel Chabrier (1841–1894)
13. Habanera
Claude Debussy
14. La Puerta del Vino
15. La soirée dans Grenade
Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
16. Alborada del gracioso
17. Pavane pour une infante défunte

Among the things I’ve written about Osorio in the past apply here. So, to quote myself, he plays with beauty and charm, a delicate touch, and a genuine grace, with expressive, nuanced singing in his piano playing. He is a richly expressive piano virtuoso of international fame, and in my experience has never demonstrated anything but sensitive, immaculate, committed, passionate playing, a most-refined pianist whose best work comes in expressively lyrical passages. In “The French Album” he finds amply opportunity to demonstrate all of those talents, particularly in the “expressively lyrical” material, which comes in abundance from the French masters.

Osorio bookends his program with a pair of pavanes by Faure and Ravel respectively. They are perfect pieces for exemplifying his gentle yet commanding style. A pavane is “a stately dance dating from the 16th century,” and Osorio plays both of them with a stately grace, just as he plays everything on the agenda with a courtly polish.

The Debussy items dominate the album. Osorio gives them a free expression. I read the other day someone expressing the opinion that Debussy ushered in the modern age of classical music, and you’ll get no argument from me. With Debussy’s brilliant tone colors, expressionistic and impressionistic in style, lush and subtle at the same time, he certainly created a new musical world. Osorio exploits this new world superbly, his tone colors nuanced and unmistakable, his touch as delicate as the occasion demands. This is playing one can feel, and it feels good.

As I said at the beginning, there are flashier pianists than Osorio, but there are none finer. In this album of French music, he is in his element. If I were forced to pick a favorite selection, it might be Chabrier’s Habanera, not just because it’s beautiful music, but because it is Spanish-influenced music in the French manner, wonderfully executed by Osorio, who combines the best of both worlds.

Producer James Ginsburg and Cedille’s ace engineer Bill Maylone recorded the music in the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago in January 2020. The sound is gorgeous: not too sharp or bright; not too dull or soft. It simply sounds like a real piano in a real hall setting, with just the right amount of ambient bloom, room acoustics, and lifelike detail to bring it to life.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on the Big Jon and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to both its equipment and recordings review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me — point out recordings that they think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura’s hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can’t imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
The reader will find Classical Candor's Mission Statement, Staff Profiles, and contact information ( toward the bottom of each page.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Writer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Most recently I’ve moved to my “ultimate system” consisting of a BlueSound Node streamer, an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a CD transport, Legacy Wavelet DAC/preamp/crossover, Tandberg 2016A and Legacy PowerBloc2 amps, and Legacy Signature SE speakers (biamped), all connected with decently made, no-frills cables. With the arrival of CD and higher resolution streaming, that is now the source for most of my listening.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa